Biden vs. Palin vs … Throttlebottom?
Though the vice presidential debate may be over, the political fun continues at Washington University with “Of Thee I Sing,” the classic musical satire of American public life.
Presented by the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences, “Of Thee I Sing” opens at 8 p.m. Oct. 24 in Edison Theatre and continues through Nov. 2.
Featuring music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin and written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, “Of Thee I Sing” centers on the presidential candidacy of the dashing John P. Wintergreen and his running mate, Alexander Throttlebottom.
Building their campaign on a platform of “love,” the candidates’ election committees concoct a pageant to select the nation’s prettiest girl, whom Wintergreen publicly agrees to marry.
Yet Wintergreen soon falls for, and proposes to, the plainspoken pageant organizer, Mary Turner, much to the indignation of winning beauty Diana Deveraux.
Unfortunately for Wintergreen, Deveraux turns out to be “the illegitimate daughter of the illegitimate son of the illegitimate nephew of Napoleon,” thus bringing the United States to the brink of war with France. In response, the Senate prepares impeachment hearings while Throttlebottom prepares for the White House.
“‘Of Thee I Sing’ is a lampoon, but a very affectionate one,” said director Jeffery Matthews, senior lecturer in drama. “It laughs at the Congress, it laughs at the Supreme Court, it laughs at political candidates and the people who support them.
“The play opened at the height of the Great Depression, but it wasn’t just escapist entertainment. In its own way, it recognized the problems of the day and accepted that world,” Matthews said.
Perhaps as a result, “It was the longest-running Broadway musical of the 1930s, and the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize,” Matthews said.
“The comedy is big and brash and, in many ways, very current. The notion of overly scripted politicians is, of course, still with us. The play doesn’t just skewer the system or ask for change — it revels in the ridiculousness of it all. It says ‘We’re Americans, and this is who we are,’ ” he said.
The cast of 40 is led by seniors David Weiss and Carli Miller as Wintergreen and Turner, respectively, with sophomore Matt Rosenthal as Throttlebottom and junior Catherine Moreton as Deveraux. Also featured are junior Michael Martinez as the French ambassador; sophomore Adrienne Hayes as the chambermaid who inspires the “love” platform; and Gil Nussbaum, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus of radiation oncology in the School of Medicine, as the chief justice.
The stage design — by Angela Bengford, lecturer in performing arts in the PAD — is inspired by 1930s editorial cartoons and includes original drawings, projected onto the stage, by Elizabeth Romaner, a senior in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
Costumes, which continue the broad ’30s vibe — Supreme Court justices sport Groucho Marx glasses, for example — are by senior Lauren Talamo.
Lighting is by senior Will Calvert. Technical director is Sean Savoie, lecturer in performing arts. Music director is Lisa Campbell-Albert, teacher of applied music. Choreography is by St. Louis director/choreographer Millie Garvey.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 26.
Performances continue the following weekend at 8 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 2.
Tickets — $9 for students, faculty, staff and senior citizens and $15 for the public — are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets.
For more information, call 935-6543 or visit padarts.wustl.edu.